From April 1st 2013 Liverpool City Council will replace the crisis loans and community care grants with the Citizen Support Scheme (CSS). It is not just a meaningless re-branding exercise; it has serious ramifications for people all over the country.
The scheme’s key differences to those of the existing arrangements are the abolishment of cash payments. The will be replaced with ‘food vouchers’ and utility ‘pre-pay cards’. The council laughingly describe this as a switch to, ‘holistic care’.
Currently people in receipt of crisis loans and community care grants are free to spend their money as they see fit. The new (CSS) will replace claimant autonomy with restrictive, and possibly, methods of payment that the state can monitor, how, where, and when it is used.
In short it is nothing more than a tool to ensure that poor people spend their money on whatever the state believes they should.
The Australian government has been trialling a very similar policy to what is being planned in Liverpool, entitled, ‘income management’. Through the policy, claimants are provided with a ‘basics’ card. Depending of the circumstances of the individuals claim, the state are able to ‘Quarantine’ whatever percentage of the claimants benefits that it sees fit. This means that a claimant can only purchase items that their card allows, only from government approved retailers, and only in government approved amounts.
Income management is a tool to punitively target the poorest people in society. The Liverpool Claimants Network describes the policy in the following terms;
“Income management targets people in poverty with punitive measures that encourages the treatment of welfare recipients as feckless, and would fit neatly into the UK government’s tales of fraud, criminality and disorder allegedly rampant in the districts of Blighty. Personally, we call those tales of survival, but it makes no odds to the privileged-in-power, intent on wiping out welfare on behalf of their capitalist chums.”
The (CSS) is punitive, demeaning, and could lead to a nationwide version of ‘income management’. All the more likely when you consider the other areas of welfare that the government are implementing draconian measures of control, such as ATOS assessments, and the workfare scheme.
Liverpool City Council is going through the process of a ‘consultation period’, which in other words means a, laughably transparent rubber stamping exercise, before they finalise their plans.
On the 3rd October, the results of a government ‘think tank’ poll (sponsored by MasterCard) suggests that a majority of the public support ‘government control on how claimants spend their benefits’.
This dubious propaganda will no doubt be used as evidence to justify the City Councils aim to move towards ‘income management’. Such naked class warfare should be resisted in the same manner as ‘workfare’, and the ATOS assessments.
This article first appeared in Freedom Newspaper.